Category Archives: Martyrs of China

Feb 28/29 – St Auguste Chapdelaine, MEP, (1814-1856), Priest, Martyr of China, “Fr. Ma”

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-St Auguste Chapdelaine, MEP

Youngest of nine children born to Nicolas Chapdelaine and Madeleine Dodeman, 6 January 1814 at La Rochelle-Normande, France. Following grammar school, Auguste dropped out to work on the family farm. He was big and strong.  He early felt a call to the priesthood, but his family opposed it, needing his help on the farm, due to his physical abilities. However, the sudden death of two of his brothers caused them to re-think, and they finally approved. He entered the minor seminary at Mortain on 1 October 1834, studying with boys half his age. It led to his being nicknamed Papa Chapdelaine, which stuck with him the rest of his life.

Ordained on 10 June 1843 at age 29. Associate pastor from 1844 to 1851, in Boucey, France. He finally obtained permission from his bishop to enter the foreign missions, and was accepted by French Foreign Missions; he was two years past their age limit, but his zeal for the missions made them approve him anyway. He stayed long enough to say a final Mass, bury his sister, and say good-bye to his family, warning them that he would never see them again. Left Paris, France for the Chinese missions on 30 April 1852, landing in Singapore on 5 September 1852.

Due to being robbed on the road by bandits, Auguste lost everything he had, and had to fall back and regroup before making his way to his missionary assignment. Chapdelaine went illegally to the Chinese interior to proselytize Christianity. The local mandarin Zhang Mingfeng was no doubt disposed to take such a harsh line against this provocation by virtue of the ongoing, Christian-inspired Taiping Rebellion, which had originated right there in Guangxi and was in the process of engulfing all of southern China in one of history’s bloodiest conflicts.

The Taiping Rebellion, 1850–64, was a revolt against the Ch’ing (Manchu) dynasty of China. It was led by Hung Hsiu-ch’üan, a visionary from Guangdong who evolved a political creed and messianic religious ideology influenced by elements of Protestant Christianity. His object was to found a new dynasty, the Taiping [great peace]. Strong discontent with the corrupt and decaying Chinese government brought him many adherents, especially among the poorer classes, and the movement spread with great violence through the E Chang (Yangtze) valley. The rebels captured Nanjing in 1853 and made it their capital.

The Western powers, particularly the British, who at first sympathized with the movement, soon realized that the Ch’ing dynasty might collapse and with it foreign trade. They offered military help and led the Ever-Victorious Army, which protected Shanghai from the Taipings. The Taipings, weakened by strategic blunders and internal dissension, were finally defeated by new provincial armies led by Tseng Kuo-fan and Li Hung-chang. Some 20 million people died in the uprising, which was filled with acts of barbarism on both sides.

St Auguste reached Kwang-si province in 1854, and was arrested in Su-Lik-Hien ten days later. He spent two to three weeks in prison, but was released, and ministered to the locals for two years, converting hundreds. In February 1856, the pagan wife of a new convert didn’t like her husband chastising her for not being more like the Christian wives he knew. She complained to her brother and uncle, who denounced St. Auguste to the local magistrate as a Christian and prosletyzing, a capital crime outside the five open ports where it was allowed, but not in the interior.

Arrested on 26 February 1856 during a government crackdown due to the Taiping Rebellion, he was returned to Su-Lik-Hien and sentenced to death for his work.

Like his Master, Fr. Chapdelaine said very little in his own defense. Furious at what he considered to be disrespect, the official had him flogged 150 times on the cheeks. The very first lash drew blood. We can only imagine what damage the other 149 blows did. Next Father received 300 lashes with a cane on his back. They stopped only when they saw he could not move.

But when they went to drag him back to his cell, after only a few steps, he rose and began walking as if in perfect health. The Chinese couldn’t believe their eyes. The saint told them, “It is the good God Who protects and blesses me.”

They next placed him in a custom made cage. His head fit through a hole in the top, and it was just tall enough for him to barely touch his toes on the ground. Furthermore the cage was constructed to hold his arms in place so that he could not use them to pull himself up in order to breath more easily. Thus he was always hovering between suffocation and barely breathing.

The mandarin offered to spare his life, however, provided he came up with a ransom of 400 silver talents. “I have no money,” he said, “only books.” What about 150 talents, then? he was asked. He replied, “Let the mandarin do what he pleases with me. I am in his hands.” Thus on February 29, 1856, they beheaded him. They needn’t have bothered, though. He had been beaten so badly and his body had been so tortured, he was already dead.

He had not sought out martyrdom. Not long before his arrest, he was reputed to have said, “He Who gives us our lives demands that we should take reasonable care of the gift. But if the danger comes to us, then happy those who are found worthy to suffer for His dear sake.” Nonetheless die he did.

Martyred at around this same time was St. Agnes Tsao Kou Ying, one of his lay catechists who had been stuck in the same sort of cage as he had been. Their cages were placed side-by-side, and while they could see one another, they could not talk. Doing so was impossible.

Also giving his life was St. Lawrence Bai Xiaoman, a layman who had promised to accompany Father to death if need be for the sake of Jesus Christ and the salvation of souls.

Learning of his death, the head of the French mission at Hong Kong sent this protest to Ye Ming-Chen, governor of Guangdong:

“The captivity of Mr. Chapdelaine, the torture he suffered, his cruel death, and the violence that was made to his body constitute, noble Imperial Commissioner, a blatant and odious violation of the solemn commitments to which he was consecrated. Your government therefore needs to give [some reparation] to France. You will not hesitate to give it me fully and entirely. You will propose the terms: I will have to then decide if the honor, dignity, and interests of the Government of my great Emperor allow me to accept. My desire is also to go to Canton and to confer in person with Your Excellency. You know an hour of friendly conversation more often than not advances the solution to important affairs than a month of written correspondence.”

The Chinese were frankly tired of the foreign powers throwing their weight around. China, after all, has always been a great and mighty nation. Were it not for the Europeans’ advanced military technology—ironically, technology that had its birth in China—China would have swatted these “bearded foreign devils” away like flies.

Thus it shouldn’t surprise us that the Chinese government refused to apologize or offer compensation or any satisfaction for the life of Fr. Chapdelaine. After all, had he not clearly broken Chinese law by breaching the interior and preaching an illegal religion? He had. And was not the punishment for this beheading? It was. So for what was there to apologize? Abbé Chapdelaine wasn’t the only French citizen arrested for such activity. At the time, six of his countrymen were in custody for attempting to spread the gospel.

Furthermore, Father’s activities took place in territory where rebels were active (Christianity-inspired Taiping Rebellion). How could it not be that a Frenchman – whose Christian government had not shown itself overly friendly or necessarily an ally to China – was doing something other than preaching religion? In fact, the Chinese viceroy asserted that Father’s activities had nothing whatsoever to do with religion. He was an agitating agent working against the government.

This turn of affairs was not necessarily disadvantageous to the French. Many of their countrymen had suffered martyrdom for their missionary work, and their government had never once taken action or retaliated. Now the sense was, “Enough is enough.” As the aforementioned minister wrote his nation’s Foreign Office:

“If, in a word, the Representative of His Imperial Majesty would not but fail in his duty if he did not take advantage of the opportunity offered him to fix with one blow the errors or mistakes of the past and to bring out of the martyrdom of a missionary the complete emancipation of Christianity [in China].”

As a result of the Chinese government’s refusal to apologize in any way, France thus used the incident as a pretext to join the United Kingdom in the Second Opium War. Britain’s purpose for the war was to have China legalize the opium trade (heroin comes from opium), expand its access to near-slave-wages Chinese labor (abuses of Chinese workers had led their government to cut off English access to such labor), and get China to exempt foreign imports from internal transit duties.

The war lasted until 1860. While it obtained for foreign missionaries access to China’s interior, all in all it was a shameful mess. One could say about it what the English politician Gladstone said about the First Opium War: “I feel in dread of the judgments of God upon England for our national iniquity towards China…. [This is] a war more unjust in its origin, a war more calculated in its progress to cover this country with permanent disgrace.”

Pope St. John Paul II canonized St. Auguste and other Chinese martyrs on October 1, 2000, the same day (perhaps not coincidentally) as the anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. The next day the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily released an article showing all the ways those canonized were actually bandits and other types of miscreants. It accused St. Auguste of raping women, of living with a woman named Cao, and of bribing officials on behalf of “bandits”.

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-Chapdelaine interrogation, please click on the image for greater detail.

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-Chapdelaine sentencing.

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-Chinese “slow-slicing” torture, Lingchi, literally meaning “death-by-a-thousand-cuts”, an 1858 illustration from the French newspaper Le Monde Illustré, of the lingchi execution of a French missionary, Auguste Chapdelaine, in China. In fact, Chapdelaine died from physical abuse in prison, and was beheaded after death. Please click on the image for greater detail.

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-Chapdelaine, further torture in a box where the victim can neither stand nor rest. If painful exertions are not made, the victim will suffocate. Please click on the image for greater detail.

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-beheading of St Auguste Chapdeline, stained glass in the parish church of Boucey, France, where he had been associate pastor.

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-statue of St Auguste Chapdelaine, parish church, Boucey, France.

“I am being sent to China. You must treat this as a sacrifice made for God, and He will reward you in eternity. At your death, you shall appear before Him in confidence [and He will remember] your generosity for His greater glory in sacrificing what is dearest to you. Please sign the letter you will send me as soon as possible as sign of your consent and also as a sign of your forgiveness for all the sorrow I have caused you. And as sign of your blessing, please add a cross after your name.” -in a letter to his mother, making her aware his foreign assignment, 1852, from Paris.

“I thank God for the wonderful family He has given me and for the conduct of all its members…. It has been my greatest happiness on earth to have had such an honorable family.” -from a letter to his brother, Nicolas, at the same time, 1852.

Almighty and ever-living God, You have raised the Chinese martyrs to be models of our faith. Through Your grace, they had the courage to witness to Your Gospel by giving up their lives. May their blood continue to nourish the seeds of faith in the Chinese people, leading them to know and love You. We ask this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Jan 15 – St Francis Ferdinand de Capillas, OP, (1607-1648), Priest, Protomartyr of China

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The 17th century was a period of great missionary activity. Many martyrs shed their blood on distant shores. Dominicans and Jesuits contributed a great share to the blood of martyrs. Among this glorious company, the Dominican Francis de Capillas has become the type and exemplar of them.

De Capillas was born in Baquerín de Campos, Palencia, Spain, on August 14, 1607. At the age of 17 he entered the Order of Preachers, receiving the religious habit in the Dominican Priory of St. Paul in Valladolid. While still a deacon he was sent by his Order to do missionary work in the Philippines, landing in Manila during February 1631. Shortly after his arrival he was ordained as a priest.

The Spain of his youth was still ringing with the missionary zeal of Saints Louis Bertrand, Philip de las Casas, and Francis Xavier; the report of the martyrdom of Alphonsus Navarette (June 1), in Japan, was news at the time. Perhaps the bravery of these men helped to fire the young Francis with apostolic longing, for he volunteered for the Philippine mission while he was a deacon. At age 23 (1631) he left Spain and was ordained in Manila. Here, at the gateway to the Orient, the Dominicans had founded a university in 1611, and the city teemed with missionaries traveling throughout the Orient.

De Capillas remained there for the next decade, working hard alongside his fellow friars. His own field of labor was the district of Tuao, Cagayan Valley, on the island of Luzon, where he was able to inspire a great flourishing of conversions. An apostolic soul and at the same very ascetic, he was able to join zeal to an extraordinary spirit of penance. He would take his short rest stretched out over a wooden cross and willingly not defending himself from the bites of the many insects infesting the region.

De Capillas considered that time spent in the Philippines as a period of preparation for a mission to China. The young priest labored for 10 years in the province of Cagayan, the Philippines, where heat, insects, disease, and paganism leagued against the foreigner to make life very hard.

But it was not hard enough for Francis. He begged for a mission field that was really difficult; perhaps, like many of the eager young apostles of that time, he was hoping for an assignment in Japan, where the great persecution was raging.

At the Provincial Chapter held by the friars of the Order in Manila in 1641, he was given permission to transfer, soon transferring to Taiwan, along with a friend, Friar Francisco Díez, O.P. He was one of the last Spanish missionaries in Taiwan before they were ousted from the island by the Dutch later that same year.

The two friars arrived in the Province of Fujian/Fukien, on mainland China, in March 1642, where they joined a fellow Dominican who had survived an earlier period of persecution.

They then embarked upon a fruitful period of evangelization among the Chinese people of the region, especially in the cities of Fu’an, Fogan and Ting-Moyang Ten. They were so successful that they were able to establish a community of the Third Order of Saint Dominic.

On November 4, 1647, there was a huge change of fortune for the mission. That day, Díez died of natural causes. Later that same day, Manchurian forces, in their conquest of the Ming dynasty, invaded the region and seized the city of Fu’an, where the missionaries were based. They were hostile to Christianity and immediately began to persecute the Christians.  On November 13, 1647, De Capillas was captured while returning from Fogan, where he had gone to administer the sacraments to a sick person.

Francis, like his Master, was subjected to a mock trial. Civil, military, and religious officials questioned him, and they accused him of everything from political intrigue to witchcraft. He was charged with disregarding ancestor worship and being a spy, and, finally, since they could “find no cause in him,” he was turned over to the torturers.

He endured the cruel treatment of these men with great courage. Seeing his calmness, the magistrates became curious about his doctrines. They offered him wealth, power, and freedom, if he would renounce his faith, but he amazed and annoyed them by choosing to suffer instead. They varied the tortures with imprisonment, and he profitably used the time to convert his jailor and fellow prisoners. Even the mandarin visited him in prison, asking Francis if he would renounce his faith or would he prefer to suffer more. Being told that he was glad to suffer for Christ, the mandarin furiously ordered that he be scourged again “so he would have even more to be glad about.”

Enduring many insults, he was taken to the worst local prison, where he suffered the torture of having his ankles crushed while being dragged. He was scourged, repeatedly bloodied, but he endured the tortures without cries of pain, so that judges and torturers were surprised at the end. He was moved, almost dying, to a prison where they locked up those criminals condemned to death. His conduct was uplifting, and aroused the admiration of others sentenced to death and even the prison guards themselves, who allowed food to be brought to him, that he not die of hunger.

While in prison, he wrote:

“I am here with other prisoners and we have developed a fellowship. They ask me about the Gospel of the Lord. I am not concerned about getting out of here because here I know I am doing the will of God. They do not let me stay up at night to pray, so I pray in bed before dawn. I live here in great JOY (Ed. emphasis added) without any worry, knowing that I am here because of Jesus Christ. The pearls I have found here these days are not always easy to find.”

Francis was finally condemned, as it says in the breviary, as “the leader of the traitors,” these being (presumably) the rebel army that was besieging the city. The official condemnation is stated in those words: “After long suffering, he was finally beheaded and so entered into the presence of the Master, who likewise suffered and died under a civil sentence”.

On January 15, 1648, De Capillas was sentenced to death on charges of disseminating false doctrines and inciting the people against new Emperor. His death sentence, by decapitation, was carried out at Fogan the same day. He thus became the first martyr within the vast Chinese empire.

On January 15, 1648, the judge came and ordered that he be flogged again and put into the sentry box of the city wall. He was ordered to step down from the box, and as he did so, the executioner beheaded him, separating his head from his body with a heavy blow of the sword. His body was thrown outside the city wall and found two months later. It was preserved incorruptible for two months, and was left untouched by a fire that reduced to ashes the house where his coffin was kept. Of the many relics of St. Francisco de Capillas which have been preserved, the most important remains his head, which is found in the convent of St. Paul of Valladolid, where began his religious life.

Let us Pray : O God, who didst strengthen with wonderful constancy the faith of Thy Blessed martyr, Francis, grant propitiously to Thy church, that aided by his prayer it may deserve to celebrate in all places new triumphs of faith. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

First Vespers:
Ant. This is a martyr indeed, who for the name of Christ shed his blood; who neither feared the threats of judges, nor sought the glory of earthly dignity, but has joyously come to the the heavenly kingdom.
V. Pray for us, Blessed Francis.
R. That we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.

Lauds:
Ant. Let him that would come after Me de deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.
V. A crown of gold is on his head.
R. Signed with the sign of sanctity.

Second Vespers:
Ant. This is he whom for the law of his God delivered himself to death. He did not hesitate to die; he was slain by the wicked and lives forever with Christ: he followed the Lamb and has received the palm.
V. Pray for us, Blessed Francis
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

When Blesseds Peter Sanz, OP, Francis Serrano, OP, John Alcober, OP, Joachim Royo, OP, and Francis Diaz, OP, were asked if they could feel the pain from their torture, Bl. Peter Sanz, O.P. responded, “Indeed I do, but I think of my Savior’s sufferings.”  The guards didn’t understand them because they continued to evangelize even amidst the grueling conditions of their imprisonment.  The viceroy of Peking wrote about them,

“What are we to do with these men? Their lives are certainly irreproachable; even in prison they convert men to their opinions, and their doctrines so seize upon the heart that their adepts fear neither torments nor captivity. They themselves are joyous in their chains. The jailors and their families become their disciples, and those condemned to death embrace their religion. To prolong this state is only to give them the opportunity of increasing the number of Christians.”

Bl. Peter Sanz, OP, said at his execution, “Rejoice with me, my friend; I am going to Heaven!”

O God, You gave us an outstanding example of faith and fortitude in the glorious martyrdom of Blessed Francis and his companions; grant, we beseech You, that, through their prayers and example we may strongly resist the adversities of this world and be found persevering in the confession of the true faith. This we ask through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Sep 11 – St Jean-Gabriel Perboyre, CM, (1802-1840), Priest & Martyr

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It is said we mock Christ again by the timidity of our witness.  Mine and me most so.

St. Jean-Gabriel was born in Puech, France, on January 6th, 1802, to a pious family of eight children. Including Jean Gabriel, five of the Perboyer children became consecrated religious – three priests and two nuns.

Accompanying his younger brother Louis while he was entering the seminary, Jean-Gabriel discovered his calling and entered the Congregation of the Mission, founded by St. Vincent de Paul, at the age of 16

He was ordained at age 23 and taught theology at the seminary before being appointed rector, and later master of novices in Paris – on account of the sanctity his superiors saw in him.

His younger brother, Louis, died on his way to preach in China at the age of 24 and Jean-Gabriel asked to carry out the mission that had been entrusted to his brother. He arrived on the island of Macao on August 29, 1835 and set out for the mainland later that year.

He carried out his evangelical labors in Ho-Nan for three years before being transferred to Hou-Pé. His missions bore much fruit in the short time he spent there.

In 1839 the viceroy of the province began a persecution and used the local mandarins to obtain the names of priests and catechists in their areas. In September 1839, the Mandarin of Hubei, where there was a Vincentian mission center, sent soldiers to arrest the missionaries. Perboyre was meeting informally with some other priests of the region when the soldiers arrived to seize them. The priests scattered and hid, but one catechist, under torture, gave away where Peboyre was hiding.

A series of trials began. The first was held at Kou-Ching-Hien. The replies of the martyr were heroic:
“Are you a Christian priest?”
“Yes, I am a priest and I preach this religion.”
“Do you wish to renounce your faith?”
“No, I will never renounce the faith of Christ.”

They asked him to reveal his companions in the faith and the reasons for which he had transgressed the laws of China. They wanted, in short, to make the victim the culprit. But a witness to Christ is not an informer. Therefore, he remained silent.

The prisoner was then transferred to Siang-Yang. The cross examinations were made close together. He was held for a number of hours kneeling on rusty iron chains, was hung by his thumbs and hair from a rafter (the hangtze torture), was beaten several times with bamboo canes. Greater than the physical violence, however, remained the wound of the fact that the values in which he believed were put to ridicule: the hope in eternal life, the sacraments, the faith.

The third trial was held in Wuchang. He was brought before four different tribunals and subjected to 20 interrogations. To the questioning were united tortures and the most cruel mockery. They prosecuted the missionary and abused the man. They obliged Christians to abjure, and one of them even to spit on and strike the missionary who had brought him to the faith. For not trampling on the crucifix, John Gabriel received 110 strokes of pantse.

The saints suffer EVERY kind of calumny for the name of Jesus Christ.  Among the various accusations, the most terrible was the accusation that he had had immoral relations with a Chinese girl, Anna Kao, who had made a vow of virginity. The martyr defended himself. She was neither his lover nor his servant.  Jean-Gabriel  remained upset because they made innocents suffer for him.

During one interrogation he was obliged to put on Mass vestments. They wanted to accuse him of using the privilege of the priesthood for private interests. But the missionary, clothed in the priestly garments, impressed the bystanders, and two Christians drew near to him to ask for absolution.

The cruelest judge was the Viceroy. The missionary was by this time a shadow. The rage of this unscrupulous magistrate was vented on a ghost of a man. Blinded by his omnipotence the Viceroy wanted confessions, admissions, and accusations against others. But if the body was weak, the soul was reinforced. His hope by now rested in his meeting God, which he felt nearer each day.

“Trample on your God, and I will free you!” the local government official demanded.

“Oh!” the holy martyr replied, “how could I so insult my Savior?” And seizing a crucifix, he pressed it to his lips.

When John Gabriel told him for the last time: “I would sooner die than deny my faith!,” the judge pronounced his sentence.

On September 11, 1839 Jean-Gabriel became one of the first victims of the persecutions against Christians, dying in a manner which had a striking resemblance to the passion of our Lord. He was betrayed for a sum of silver, stripped of his garments and dragged from tribunal to tribunal, beaten and tortured continuously until he was sentenced to death with seven criminals. He was crucified, strangled, and died on a cross.

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Before his death St. Jean Gabriel wrote this prayer:

“O my Divine Saviour,
Transform me into Yourself.
May my hands be the hands of Jesus.
Grant that every faculty of my body
May serve only to glorify You.
Above all,
Transform my soul and all its powers
So that my memory, will and affection
May be the memory, will and affections
Of Jesus.
I pray You
To destroy in me
All that is not of You.
Grant that I may live
But in You, by You and for You,
So that I may truly say,
With St. Paul,
“I live – now not I –
But Christ lives in me”.
-St Jean-Gabriel Perboyre, CM

His body was retrieved and buried in the mission cemetery by a catechist. Eventually, his remains were returned from China to France, where they were entombed for veneration in the chapel of the Vincentian Motherhouse in Paris.

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“If we have to suffer martyrdom it would be a great grace given to us by God; it’s something to be desired, not feared.” -Saint Jean-Gabriel Perboyre, in a letter from China to his uncle

“Jean-Gabriel Perboyre, priest of the Congregation of the Mission, he wanted to follow Christ evangelizing the poor, the example of St. Vincent de Paul.

After exercising the ministry of the clergy as a trainer in France, went to China. Here earnestly bore witness of Christ’s love for the Chinese people.

“I do not know what awaits me in the journey that lies ahead of me, without a doubt the cross, which is the daily bread of the missionary. What we can hope for better, going to preach a crucified God?” (Letter No. 70), wrote at the gateway to China.

Along the streets where he had been sent found the Cross of Christ. Daily through imitation of his Lord, with humility and gentleness, fully identified with him.

By following step by step in his Passion, caught forever in his glory. “One thing is needful: Jesus Christ,” he liked to say.

His martyrdom is the culmination of his commitment to following Christ, the missionary. After being tortured and condemned, reproducing the Passion of Jesus with remarkable similarity, as he came to death, even death on a cross.

Jean-Gabriel had one passion: Christ and the proclamation of his Gospel. That’s loyalty to this passion that he has been equated with the lowly and the condemned, and that the Church can now solemnly proclaim his glory in the choir of the saints in heaven.”
-Pope St John Paul II, Homily of Canonization, 2 June 1996, Vatican City, Rome

Love,
Matthew, MSCS, ’05
GO BLUE DEMONS!!!!

Jul 9 – Franciscan Martyrs of China & Companions: The Boxer Rebellion

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-the Empress Dowager Cixi

The uprising by the “Society for Justice and Harmony” (commonly known as the “Boxers”; don’t you just LOVE these euphemisms?  Not well disguised, except from the truly moronic?  “The Committee on Public Safety” in the French Revolution?  Pick a lobby in Washington?  Ok, I’ll cede one, “The Holy Office”, aka, The Inquisition :), occurred at the beginning of the twentieth century and caused the shedding of the blood of many Christians, Catholic & Protestant.

After a long drought, a slight drizzle began to moisten the dry fields of Shanxi province. But it was too late.  Local peasants had already spread rumors – the Christians were to blame for the long-term lack of rain. Banners had begun to appear throughout the region: “The skies won’t rain, the earth is scorched, all because the churches have blocked the heavens” (Taiyuan jiaochu jianhua, 311).

Two Franciscan bishops, two priests, a brother, and seven nuns had prayed for rain, but when it had finally arrived they knew it could not stop the tide of violence. Chinese Christians all around them were already being captured, ordered to renounce their faith in God, and executed if they refused. By the summer of 1900 a group of anti-foreign and anti-Christian men and women had organized themselves into roaming bands of martial artists groups carrying long swords, spears, and halberds; they called themselves the Yihetuan, or the “Society of Righteous Harmony.” Their duty, they asserted, was to support the ruling court and “annihilate all foreigners.”

At 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the Franciscan bishops, priests, and nuns were reciting the Divine Office together with Chinese faithful in Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi, when they heard the clamor of weapons approaching their small room. Instinctively knowing that they would soon be executed, those present all knelt before Bishop Gregorius Grassi, the ordinary of their remote Chinese diocese. Grassi trembled with emotion as he said to his fellow Christians, “The hour of death has come, my children: kneel down and I will give you holy absolution” (Franciscan Martyrs of the Boxer Rising, 14).

Bishops Grassi and Francis Fogolla, Fathers Theodiric Balat and Elias Fachini, Brother Andreus Bauer, seven nuns, fourteen Chinese Catholics, and a group of Protestants who had also been arrested, were each stripped to the waist, men and women, and tied together. On their way to the governor’s mansion, where their execution ground was being prepared, the Franciscans were derided and beaten both by their guards and the mob that lined the street.

Once they had arrived at Governor Yuxian’s official residence, the missionaries and native Catholics were ordered to kneel in the large courtyard. There was no trial. In Cardinal Louis Nazaire Bégin’s account of what happened next, we hear of how they were martyred:
‘Kill them, kill them!’ roared the crowd. Yu-Hsien striking with his own sword cried: ‘Kill them!’ At this sight the soldiers began the slaughter, dealing blows right and left, cruelly injuring their victims before giving the final stroke. Father Elie, aged sixty-one years, received more than one hundred sword cuts and at each lifted his eyes to heaven saying: ‘I go to heaven.’

During the scene the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary were spectators, for their executioners hoped the sight of the martyred priests would make their own death more horrible. They knelt in prayer with eyes lifted to heaven, praying for the martyrs, for the conversion of their persecutors and for the perseverance of the Christians. . . . The nuns embraced each other, intoned St Ambrose & St Augustine’s Te Deum Laudamus (Christian martyrs, when presented with immanent death, SING! see also Carmelites of the French Revolution), and presented their heads to the executioners…(Life of Mother Marie Hermine, 62-63).

Father Andrew Wang tried to evade the Boxers by wearing secular garb and taking flight into Shanxi’s remote areas. Father Wang spent several days without food or shelter, and finally in a state of exhaustion, coughing blood, was discovered by his pursuers, who took him to the local magistrate for trial.

During his investigation, he was told by the local official: “. . . if you renounce your religion you will receive clothes and money, and your life will be spared.” Father Wang calmly informed his judge that he was a priest, reasserted his faith in God, and asked to be executed on the grounds of his church, which had just been destroyed by the Boxers.

The Boxer Rebellion, Boxer Uprising or Yihetuan Movement was a violent anti-foreign and anti-Christian movement which took place in China towards the end of the Qing dynasty between 1898 and 1900. It was initiated by the Militia United in Righteousness (Yihetuan), known in English as the “Boxers”, and was motivated by proto-nationalist sentiments and opposition to foreign imperialism and Christianity. The Great Powers intervened and defeated Chinese forces.

The uprising took place against a background of severe drought, and the disruption caused by the growth of foreign spheres of influence. After several months of growing violence against foreign and Christian presence in Shandong and the North China plain, in June 1900 Boxer fighters, convinced they were invulnerable to foreign weapons, converged on Beijing with the slogan “Support the Qing, exterminate the foreigners.”

Foreigners and Chinese Christians sought refuge in the Legation Quarter. In response to reports of an armed invasion to lift the siege, the initially hesitant Empress Dowager Cixi supported the Boxers and on June 21 authorized war on foreign powers. Diplomats, foreign civilians and soldiers, and Chinese Christians in the Legation Quarter were under siege by the Imperial Army of China and the Boxers for 55 days. Chinese officialdom was split between those supporting the Boxers and those favoring conciliation, led by Prince Qing.

The supreme commander of the Chinese forces, Ronglu, later claimed that he acted to protect the besieged foreigners. The Eight-Nation Alliance, after being initially turned back, brought 20,000 armed troops to China, defeated the Imperial Army, and captured Beijing (Peking) on August 14, lifting the siege of the Legations. Uncontrolled plunder of the capital and the surrounding countryside ensued, along with the summary execution of those suspected of being Boxers.

The Boxer Protocol of September 7, 1901 provided for the execution of government officials who had supported the Boxers, provisions for foreign troops to be stationed in Beijing, and an indemnity of 450 million taels of silver – more than the government’s annual tax revenue, to be paid as indemnity over a course of thirty-nine years to the eight nations involved.

As a result of the Boxer Rebellion, the martyrdom of Catholic & Protestant missionaries and many Chinese took place who can be grouped together as follows. Twenty-seven Franciscans and Franciscan tertiaries and their confreres in faith who became victims of the Boxer Rebellion; they represent more than 100,000 Christians of China who were martyred in the reign of Empress Dowager Tz’u Hsi (Cixi).

a) Martyrs of Shanxi, killed on July 9, 1900 (known as the Taiyuan Massacre), who were Franciscan Friars Minor:

1. Saint Gregory Grassi, Bishop,
2. Saint Francis Fogolla, Bishop,
3. Saint Elias Facchini, Priest,
4. Saint Theodoric Balat, Priest,
5. Saint Andrew Bauer, Religious Brother;

b) Martyrs of Southern Hunan, who were also Franciscan Friars Minor:

6. Saint Anthony Fantosati, Bishop (martyred on July 7, 1900), vicar apostolic of Hengchow,
7. Saint Joseph Mary Gambaro, Priest (martyred on July 7, 1900), who was tortured to death,
8. Saint Cesidio Giacomantonio, Priest (martyred on July 4, 1900), burned alive.

To the martyred Franciscans of the First Order were added seven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, of whom three were French, two Italian, one Belgian, and one Dutch:

9. Saint Mary Hermina of Jesus (in saec: Irma Grivot),
10. Saint Mary of Peace (in saec: Mary Ann Giuliani),
11. Saint Mary Clare (in saec: Clelia Nanetti),
12. Saint Mary of the Holy Birth (in saec: Joan Mary Kerguin),
13. Saint Mary of Saint Justus (in saec: Ann Moreau),
14. Saint Mary Adolfine (in saec: Ann Dierk),
15. Saint Mary Amandina (in saec: Paula Jeuris).

Of the martyrs belonging to the Franciscan family, there were also eleven Secular Franciscans, all Chinese:

15. Saint John Zhang Huan, seminarian,
16. Saint Patrick Dong Bodi, seminarian,
17. Saint John Wang Rui, seminarian,
18. Saint Philip Zhang Zhihe, seminarian,
19. Saint John Zhang Jingguang, seminarian,
20. Saint Thomas Shen Jihe, layman and a manservant,
21. Saint Simon Qin Chunfu, lay catechist,
22. Saint Peter Wu Anbang, layman,
23. Saint Francis Zhang Rong, layman and a farmer,
24. Saint Matthew Feng De, layman and neophyte,
25. Saint Peter Zhang Banniu, layman and labourer.

To these are joined a number of Chinese lay faithful:

26. Saint James Yan Guodong, farmer,
27. Saint James Zhao Quanxin, manservant,
28. Saint Peter Wang Erman, cook.

When the uprising of the “Boxers”, which had begun in Shandong and then spread through Shanxi and Hunan, also reached South-Eastern Tcheli (currently named Hebei), which was then the Apostolic Vicariate of Xianxian, in the care of the Jesuits, the Christians killed could be counted in thousands. Among these were four French Jesuit missionaries and at least 52 Chinese lay Christians: men, women and children – the oldest of them being 79 years old, while the youngest were aged only nine years. All suffered martyrdom in the month of July 1900. Many of them were killed in the church in the village of Tchou-Kia-ho (or Zhujiahe), in which they were taking refuge and where they were in prayer together with the first two of the missionaries listed below:

29. Saint Leo Mangin, S.J., Priest,
30. Saint Paul Denn, S.J., Priest,
31. Saint Rémy Isoré, S.J., Priest,
32. Saint Modeste Andlauer, S.J., Priest.

The names and ages of the Chinese lay Christians were as follows:

33. Saint Mary Zhu born Wu, aged about 50 years,
34. Saint Petrus Zhu Rixin, aged 19,
35. Saint Ioannes Baptista Zhu Wurui, aged 17,
36. Saint Mary Fu Guilin, aged 37,
37. Saint Barbara Cui born Lian, aged 51,
38. Saint Joseph Ma Taishun, aged 60,
39. Saint Lucia Wang Cheng, aged 18,
40. Saint Maria Fan Kun, aged 16,
41. Saint Mary Qi Yu, aged 15,
42. Saint Maria Zheng Xu, aged 11 years,
43. Saint Mary Du born Zhao, aged 51,
44. Saint Magdalene Du Fengju, aged 19,
45. Saint Mary Du born Tian, aged 42,
46. Saint Paul Wu Anju, aged 62,
47. Saint Ioannes Baptista Wu Mantang, aged 17,
48. Saint Paulus Wu Wanshu, aged 16,
49. Saint Raymond Li Quanzhen, aged 59,
50. Saint Peter Li Quanhui, aged 63,
51. Saint Peter Zhao Mingzhen, aged 61,
52. Saint John Baptist Zhao Mingxi, aged 56,
53. Saint Teresa Chen Jinjie, aged 25,
54. Saint Rose Chen Aijie, aged 22,
55. Saint Peter Wang Zuolong, aged 58,
56. Saint Mary Guo born Li, aged 65,
57. Saint Joan Wu Wenyin, aged 50,
58. Saint Zhang Huailu, aged 57,
59. Saint Mark Ji Tianxiang, aged 66,
60. Saint Ann An born Xin, aged 72,
61. Saint Mary An born Guo, aged 64,
62. Saint Ann An born Jiao, aged 26,
63. Saint Mary An Linghua, aged 29,
64. Saint Paul Liu Jinde, aged 79,
65. Saint Joseph Wang Kuiju, aged 37,
66. Saint John Wang Kuixin, aged 25,
67. Saint Teresa Zhang born He, aged 36,
68. Saint Lang born Yang, aged 29,
69. Saint Paulus Lang Fu, aged 9,
70. Saint Elizabeth Qin born Bian, aged 54,
71. Saint Simon Qin Chunfu, aged 14,
72. Saint Peter Liu Ziyu, aged 57,
73. Saint Anna Wang, aged 14,
74. Saint Joseph Wang Yumei, aged 68,
75. Saint Lucy Wang born Wang, aged 31,
76. Saint Andreas Wang Tianqing, aged 9,
77. Saint Mary Wang born Li, aged 49,
78. Saint Chi Zhuzi, aged 18,
79. Saint Mary Zhao born Guo, aged 60,
80. Saint Rose Zhao, aged 22,
81. Saint Maria Zhao, aged 17,
82. Saint Joseph Yuan Gengyin, aged 47,
83. Saint Paul Ge Tingzhu, aged 61,
84. Saint Rose Fan Hui, aged 45.

Besides all those already mentioned who were killed by the Boxers, it is necessary also to remember:

85. Saint Alberic Crescitelli, a priest of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions of Milan, who carried out his ministry in Southern Shaanxi and was martyred on July 21, 1900.

Some years later, members of the Salesian Society of St John Bosco were added to the considerable number of martyrs recorded above:

86. Saint Louis Versiglia, Bishop,
87. Saint Callistus Caravario, Priest.

They were killed together on February 25, 1930 at Li-Thau-Tseul.

A 14-year-old Chinese girl named Ann Wang, who was killed during the Boxer Rebellion when she refused to apostatize. She bravely withstood the threats of her torturers, and just as she was about to be beheaded, she radiantly declared, “The door of heaven is open to all” and repeated the name of Jesus three times.

Another of the martyrs was 18-year-old Chi Zhuzi, who had been preparing to receive the sacrament of Baptism when he was caught on the road one night and ordered to worship idols. He refused to do so, revealing his belief in Christ. His right arm was cut off and he was tortured, but he would not deny his faith. Rather, he fearlessly pronounced to his captors, before being flayed alive, “Every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood will tell you that I am Christian.”

Following the failure of the Boxer rebellion, the government recognized it had no choice but to modernize, which in turn led to a booming conversion period in the following decades. The Chinese developed respect for the moral level that Christians maintained in their hospital and schools. The continuing association between western imperialism in China and missionary efforts nevertheless continued to fuel hostilities against missions and Christianity in China. All missions were banned in China by the new communist regime after the outbreak of the Korean war in 1950, and officially continue to be legally outlawed to the present.

“The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.” – Soren Kierkegaard

Love,
Matthew

Feb 18 – St Francis Regis Clet, CM, (1748-1820) – Priest, Missionary & Martyr

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Being a “cradle”, learning how “non-cradles” come to understand Catholicism is a process.  What for me is normal, usual, every day, reflexive, from childhood, is absolutely inscrutable to others, I have come to realize.  In college, a dear friend of mine, Jeanie, decided to become a Catholic albeit with full-immersion, somewhat unusual at that time, perhaps even so now.  And she often asked me, “How do you know which of the (Memorial Acclamations) to use?”  Practice, was my unsatisfactory answer.  So, I have learned the importance of helping those who wish to understand Catholicism to learn to speak “Catholic” – partially a motivation for my being a catechist, which I love.  Maybe you can tell? 🙂

One of the most wonderful things about being Catholic is one could spend several lifetimes and never learn ALL there is to learn about Catholicism.  After two thousand years, there is ALWAYS another “treasure” hiding up in the attic.  How thrilling! 🙂  At least for me!  And, so helping others untangle the alphabet soup of religious congregations is an especial reward.  Trying to figure out the difference between a “Venetian”, 🙂 , and a Vincentian, is a teachable moment!  And, being a Blue Demon, a graduate of DePaul’s Graduate School of Computer Science, I have another especial duty to help in this regard.  Lazarist, Vincentian, Congregation of the Mission:  it’s the same.  Lazarist because St Lazare in Paris became the headquarters.  Vincentian because of their founder.  And CM, as their formal name in the Church.

The Vincentian mission is the alleviation of poverty.  Ignorance, in the Vincentian imagination, is a form of poverty.  My CM confreres, please, humbly, gratefully correct me, if even now, my understanding is incomplete.

“Give me a man of prayer and he will be capable of everything; he can say with the Apostles: ‘I can do all things in Him who sustains and comforts me.’ The Congregation of the Mission will last as long as the exercise of mental prayer is faithfully carried out in it, because prayer is an impregnable rampart which will shield Missionaries from all sorts of attacks. It is a Mystical arsenal, a Tower of David, which will furnish them with all sorts of arms, not only for the purpose of defense but also of attack.”  -St Vincent DePaul.

The tenth of 15 children, was born into a farm family in Grenoble in the southwest corner of France in 1748 and was named for the recently canonized fellow-Grenoblian, Jesuit Jean Francois Regis, SJ. After completing studies at the Royal College (founded by the Jesuits), he followed his elder brother and sister into vowed religious life. In Lyons in 1769, he entered the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians).

After ordination, Francis served as professor of moral theology at the Vincentian seminary in Annecy where he was affectionately called “the walking library” because of his encyclopedic knowledge and academic discipline. In 1786, he became Rector of Annecy and two years later, Director of Novices in Paris.

Francis Regis petitioned to go to China as a missionary several times, but his superiors did not accede to his request until 1791. At the age of 43, he replaced another priest who had to withdraw from the assignment at the last minute. A confrere, in writing about Clet’s assignment to China, noted: “He has everything you could ask for: holiness, learning, health and charm.”

After a six month sea journey from France and some transition time in Macao, which included assuming the dress and customs of the Chinese people, the new missioner arrived in Kiang-si in October of 1792 as the only European in the area. Clet’s acculturation was hampered by his life-long difficulty with the language. In 1793 Clet joined two Chinese confreres in Hou-Kouang in the Hopei Province where both of his companions died within his first year, one in prison and one from exhaustion. In that year, Clet became superior of an international group of Vincentian missioners scattered over a very large territory, and he himself pastored an area of 270 thousand square miles. In that leadership capacity, he developed standards so that there would be a uniform approach to ministry (sacramental and catechetical) among the missioners.

In 1811, the anti-Christian persecutions in China intensified with the Christians being accused of inciting rebellion against the ruling dynasty. For several years, Clet endured abuse and attacks, which frequently forced him to find refuge in the mountains. In 1819, with a generous reward on their heads, Clet and a Chinese confrere became fugitives. Like Jesus, he was finally betrayed by one of his own, a Catholic schoolmaster whom Clet had challenged for his scandalous behavior. Like the missionary St. Paul, Clet endured ignominy and forced marches in chains over hundreds of miles.

On January 1, 1820, Clet was found guilty of deceiving the Chinese people by preaching Christianity and was sentenced to strangulation on a cross. On February 18, age 72, after approval of his sentence by the Emperor, Francis Regis Clet was executed. He was tied to a stake erected like a cross, and was strangled to death, the rope having been relaxed twice to give him a three-fold death agony, a traditional Chinese execution.

As in the case of Jesus, Christians took his body and buried it on a hillside where it rested until it was returned to the Vincentian motherhouse in Paris several decades later and is now honored at St. Lazare.  His holy life and death were the inspiration of Blessed John Gabriel Perboyre, CM, Sep 11, also a Lazarist, who was martyred in China in 1840.

Clet canonization medallion

Francis Regis Clet

“You can easily imagine that a journey as long as the one I’m making calls for an exceptional sum of money.  I need 1000 francs, and Fr Daudet, our Bursar, is willing to advance me this sum on the understanding I gave him that you would repay him in a short time…I could, of course, be making a mistake, but at least I’m in good faith.  If God doesn’t bless my attempt, I’ll cut my losses, admit I was wrong, and in future be more on my guard against the illusion of my imagination or vanity; the experience will teach me a bit of sense.” – St Francis Regis Clet, in a letter to his older sister, Marie-Therese, upon letting her know he was to be missioned to China.

“At the moment, I’m living in a house which is rather large but totally dilapidated; they’re going to start repairing it at once, and as it’s wooden it won’t be unhealthy in the winter, which, anyway, isn’t very bad in these parts.  A new life is starting for me, re-awakening religion in former Christians who have been left to themselves for several years, and also converting pagans; that, I hope, will be my work till death.” – Francis’ 1st letter to his sister, Oct 15, 1792, letting her know he’d arrived in Kiang-si.

“The Chinese language is hopeless.  The characters which make it up don’t represent sounds, but ideas; this means that there’s a huge number of them.  I was too old on coming to China to get a good working knowledge of them…I know barely enough for ordinary daily living, for hearing confessions and for giving some advice to Christians.” – a 1798 letter to his brother

Love,
Matthew

Jul 9 – St Augustine Zhao Rong & Companions, (1746-1815), Martyrs

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-please click on the image for greater detail

Christianity came to China in the 600s.  It is estimated there are twelve million Catholics in China today despite persecution, martyrdom, and suppression.  The Chinese government refuses to recognize bishops appointed by Rome, rather enforcing a state run “Church” selecting Chinese appointed bishops.  In Chinese, Catholicism is referred to as Tianzhu jiao (天主教, Lord of Heaven Religion).

Augustine was a respected highly-ranked Chinese soldier who accompanied the prisoner Bishop John Gabriel Taurin Dufresse of the Paris Foreign Mission Society to his beheading in Peking in 1815.  Augustine was so impressed by the tremendous patience and courage of Bishop John as the bishop boldly chose death over the denial of his beliefs, Augustine soon realized this man possessed an inner strength that even the greatest Chinese soldier lacked. Acting on this insight, Augustine was baptized, and soon became a diocesan priest—despite the fact he knew such an action was almost a sure sentence to a slow and painful death.

Augustine was not a priest for long, but in the short time he was, he led many youth to the faith. One of those, an 18-year-old boy named Chi Zhuzi, was flayed alive in Zhao Rong’s sight shortly before Augustine himself was tortured and killed.

His captors, many of whom knew Augustine from his Army captain days, no doubt hoped that torturing the youth in front of their former mate would lead the priest to renounce the faith for himself and his followers, so they could call the massacre off. Instead, the steadfast Chi, after having had his right arm lopped off by the Army, cried out, “Every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood will tell you I’m a Christian!” Needless to say, Chi, Augustine, and all the 119 Chinese youth brought there that day in 1815 glorified God with a martyr’s death.

Augustine Zhao Rong
-please click on the image for greater detail.

Lord, you gave your martyrs, St Augustine Zhao Rong & his companions: Grace, to witness Your True Strength – Love, with their lives. Death nor torture could distract them. Grant us similar grace so that neither inconvenience nor unpopularity may distract us from witnessing to You as well in our lives.  Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Jul 8 – St Gregory Grassi (1833-1900) & Companions, The Martyrs of Taiyuanfu

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While China’s growing economic prowess and assumption of American manufacturing jobs may weigh heavily on our minds today, China at the turn of 19th century into the 20th was writhing under foreign occupation.

Christian missionaries have often gotten caught in the crossfire of wars against their own countries. When the governments of Britain, Germany, Russia and France forced substantial territorial concessions from the Chinese in 1898, anti-foreign sentiment grew very strong among many Chinese people. Throughout China during the Boxer Uprising, five bishops, 50 priests, two brothers, 15 sisters and 40,000 Chinese Christians were killed.

Gregory Grassi was born in Italy in 1833, ordained in 1856 and sent to China five years later. Grassi was later ordained Bishop of North Shanxi. One of the principal promoters of the Boxer movement was the governor Yu Hsien who resided at Taiyuanfu, Shansi. In this city was also the residence of the Franciscan Bishop Gregory Grassi, vicar apostolic of northern Shansi, and his coadjutor, Bishop Francis Fogolla. Here were also a seminary and an orphanage. The latter was conducted by Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary who had arrived only the previous year.

During the night of July 5, Yu Hsien’s soldiers appeared at the Franciscan mission and arrested the two bishops, two fathers and a brother, and seven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. Five Chinese seminarians, and eight Chinese Christians who were employed at the mission were also apprehended. In prison they were joined by one more Chinese Christian who went there voluntarily.

Four days later, on July 9, 1900, all of them were taken before the tribunal of Yu Hsien, some of them being slashed with swords on the way. Yu Hsien ordered them to be killed on the spot, and an indescribable scene followed. The soldiers closed in on the prisoners, struck them at random with their swords, wounded them right and left, cut off their arms and legs and heads. Thus died the 26 martyrs of Taiyuanfu, of whom all except three belonged to the First Order and Third Order Regular and Secular of St. Francis. They were beatified on January 3, 1943 and elevated to sainthood by JPII on 1 Oct 2000.

A list of the Martyrs of Taiyuanfu follows:

  • Saint Gregory Grassi, bishop, who was 68 years old,
  • Saint Francis Fogolla, bishop,
  • Saint Elias Facchini, a priest from Italy,
  • Saint Theodoric Balat, a priest from France,
  • Saint Andrew Bauer, a lay brother from Alsace.

Seven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, the protomartyrs (first martyrs) of their congregation and its first members to be beatified.  All were between the ages of 25 and 35:

  • Saint Mother Mary Hermine Givot from France, the superior,
  • Saint Mother Mary of Peace Giuliani from Italy,
  • Saint Mother Mary Clare Nanetti from Italy,
  • Saint Sister Mary of Ste. Natalie Kerguin from France,
  • Saint Sister Mary of St. Just Moreau from France,
  • Saint Sister Mary Amandine Jeuris from Belgium,
  • Saint Sister Mary Adolphine Dierkx from Holland.
  • Five Chinese seminarians, ages 16 through 22.
  • Nine laymen who had been employed at the episcopal residence and mission, ages 29 to 62.
  • Fourteen of the martyrs were natives of China and 12 were Europeans.

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”  – Tertullian (160 – 220 AD)

Despite the evidence of this persecution and continued persecution, the 146,575 Catholics served by the Franciscans in China in 1906 would grow to 303,760 by 1924 and were served by 282 Franciscans and 174 local priests.

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-site of martyrdom

Gregory Grassi
-St Gregory Grassi

“O God, Who desires that all men be saved and come to the acknowledgement of Truth, grant, we beseech You, through the intercession of Your blessed martyrs Bishops Gregory, Francis, and Antonine (Fantosati, who was stoned to death separately), and their companions, that all nations may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent, our Lord. Amen.”

Love,
Matthew